A study from York University published March 2015 in the Obesity Research & Clinical Practice Journal found that over the past 4 decades adult Americans now have a higher BMI than their counterparts did – after controlling for diet and exercise patterns. In other words, weight gain seemed to be completely unrelated to factors such as eating more calories and exercising less.
In a recent Washington Post article, one of the study researchers, Jennifer Kuk, stated that weight management is more complicated than an ‘energy in – energy out’ approach alone. Lifestyle, habits and the environment – both internal and external environments –make it harder than ever to maintain weight. For example, adults are sleeping less, are more stressed, are exposed to more chemicals – including plastics and pesticides, and take more prescription drugs.
Any of these, and more so when several factors are combined, impact how our bodies process food and store fat. Based on their research, Americans today would have to eat less and exercise more than adults in 1988 in order to maintain a healthy weight.
Yet, often worksite wellness programs only include or mainly emphasize biometric screenings with a focus on BMIs and short-term weight loss challenges – neither of which has been demonstrated to be effective or sustainable.
Since the early 2000s, my company (Dimensions), all but stopped providing screenings during benefit renewals – for several reasons. The main reasons centered on witnessing the negative impact and lower morale such programs were having on many employees, and no longer finding potential benefits.
Two experiences strike to the core. We witnessed an employee crying in front of a weight scale when told by the wellness vendor that recording her weight was required to be eligible for the insurance incentive. It was heartbreaking. I cried with her and then side stepped the requirement.
The second heart wrenching experience was a dear family friend who had what she thought was an abscess from being overweight (morbidly obese) and didn’t go to the doctor due to embarrassment and self blame – it ruptured and she died a few months later from breast cancer.
These are not isolated stories. Yes, there are also success stories; however, long-term success stories are far and few between. What if instead wellness initiatives focused on sleeping more, addressing stress, living mindfully, cultivating resiliency, and creating positive social work environments? Imagine the possibilities!
It’s not that screenings are inherently negative. They can be extremely positive when part of a comprehensive and multi-dimensional approach. If you haven’t done so already, consider redesigning your worksite wellness program to include initiatives that enhance employee and organizational well-being. The results will be transformative!
Washington Post article on It’s gotten harder to lose weight and not for the reasons you think